Linda and her husband, Woody, live in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and have three married children and six-plus grandchildren who live in New Hampshire, Florida, and Dublin, Ireland. For more information about Linda’s ministry visit www.momtomom.org.
It hit me on an ordinary Thursday afternoon. Because Thursdays were half days in our town, my kids were involved in a number of activities. And not only my three kids; all their friends, too. Since many other parents worked full-time, I became the carpool queen every Thursday.
And then it happened: As I was approaching an intersection, I had to choose whether to take the left turn lane or continue straight ahead. The problem? I had no idea where I was going. Left to the ice rink for skating lessons? Or was it a later left to Pioneer Girls at our church? Wait—did I have girls or boys in the back? A quick check: Yep, girls. And no ice skates. Must be Pioneer Girls next.
All this in just a few seconds. But funny how revealing a few seconds can be. Once I got the girls safely delivered, I took inventory. Reviewing each activity in which my kids were involved, I quickly came to an obvious conclusion: Not one of my three kids was over-programmed, but I was.
I was suffering from a common mom-malady, which I think has intensified recently: TMS (The Too Much Syndrome) Recognize it?
• TMI (Too Much Information) We are bombarded 24/7 with cable news, the internet, Facebook friends, even magazines at the supermarket—all full of suggestions for who we are to be as moms and what we should be doing for our kids.
• TMA (Too Many Activities) All good things. But too much of even a good thing is too much. Do your kids see only the “van view” of you– the back of your head while carpooling?
• TMT (Too Much Technology) The noise is deafening. Are you (or your kids) texting your way through life as it passes you by? Do you know your FB friends better than your family?
• TME (Too Many Expectations) We expect too much of our husbands, our kids—and mostly ourselves. Our “To Do” lists are killing us.
So what’s a mom to do? Or, put more appropriately, what’s a mom to not do? My suggestion? Try making a list of things you don’t do. As a recovering perfectionist mom, I gradually compiled my own list of things I just didn’t do—in order to do the things that mattered most.
Then recently, I came across author Shauna Niequist’s chapter “Things I Don’t Do” in her wonderful little book Bittersweet (p. 53-60). If you want to pick up the book, you’ll find her list inspiring.—and freeing.
Making a “Things I don’t do” list is hard. There’s a lot a mom just can’t cut out of her schedule. Like diapers and meals and laundry. But if you think clearly about your priorities and creatively about your daily life, you’ll be surprised at what you can let go.
Here are a few “Don’t Do That” items from my own list:
• Gourmet meals: My kids were well-fed and nourished, but no Julia Child here. I once asked my grown son what meal he most remembered from his childhood. His reply? “Those “Steakum” sandwiches you made before Little League games”! Full disclosure: He went on to list other slightly more sophisticated family meal favorites. But you get the picture.
• Crafts—or anything handmade: Just not my gift! I’m not a “crafty” person. I often wish I were. But somehow my kids survived without hand-sewn Halloween costumes and Martha Stewart decorations on their birthday cakes.
• White glove cleaning: Being a first-born half-German recovering perfectionist, I do need a certain degree of order in my life. So I did pick up toys and clear the countertops fairly regularly. But deep cleaning (like washing the kitchen floor frequently)? Not so much.
• Gardening: Here’s another gift I wish I had. But I don’t. I did assist one of our sons (with the help of a Grandpa) in raising tomato plants one or two seasons. But that’s about it.
I hope this sampling from my “Don’t Do” list will not alarm you. My kids seem to have survived quite well into healthy, happy adulthood. But I do hope it will inspire you. Making this list—and living it without guilt—can be very freeing!
What’s on your “I don’t do that” list?